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NY Gov. Hochul signs bill to protect abortion pill providers

HealthNY Gov. Hochul signs bill to protect abortion pill providers

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Governor Kathy Hochul holds media availability press conference and makes an announcement on abortion rights at the office on 633 3rd Avenue. Governor Hochul updated the media on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, announced more funding to provide abortion on demand, updated on the situation with monkeypox, and invited businesses around the country to relocate to New York state-based on laws of equality, abortion rights, and friendly business climate.

Lev Radin | Lightrocket | Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday signed a bill that would legally protect doctors who prescribe and send abortion pills to patients living in other states where the procedure is outlawed

Under the measure, New York abortion providers can serve more out-of-state patients without fear of litigation. 

That could help expand medication abortion access nationwide, allowing more patients to end pregnancies without having to travel to states where the practice is legal. 

Medication abortion, which typically involves taking the pills mifepristone and misoprostol together, accounts for about half of all abortion procedures in the U.S.  

More than a dozen states implemented near-total abortion bans since the Supreme Court decided to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling a year ago, ending half a century of federal abortion rights. Many state bans penalize people who assist with an abortion. 

Reproductive rights are set to take center stage in the 2024 election, with both parties seeking to capitalize on the polarizing issue. More than 60% of registered voters disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision, according to an NBC News poll released earlier this month. 

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“We are witnessing a shameful regression of women’s rights in this country as abortion access is restricted in states across the nation,” Hochul said in a press release. “With this bill, New York is continuing to fight back against restrictive abortion laws and help more people access the care they need.” 

The bill specifically aims to protect New York doctors who use telehealth systems, which allow them to serve patients residing in other states. Similar telehealth abortion laws have been enacted in Massachusetts, Colorado, Vermont and Washington.

The New York measure would prohibit state law enforcement from cooperating with any out-of-state litigation against doctors who use telehealth services to prescribe medication abortion or provide other reproductive health care.  

The bill builds upon similar legislation passed last year, which aimed to protect New York abortion care providers from litigation, but did not specifically address telehealth. 

“You want to prosecute, penalize, sue one of our health care providers?” Hochul said Friday at a news conference. “Well, we’re not going to help you.”

“You can continue hell bent down your path on continuing this radical behavior,” the governor declared. “But we will be just as hell bent on stopping you. This is New York.”

The bill comes as conservatives wage an unresolved legal battle over the fate of mifepristone.

A group of anti-abortion doctors sued the Food and Drug Administration last November to pull mifepristone from the U.S. market entirely. 

Federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in the Northern District of Texas ruled in the doctors’ favor in April and suspended the FDA approval. 

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The Supreme Court intervened in the case and preserved access to mifepristone as the litigation plays out.

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